Portal to Arandor Ch. 19bymistress_diana©
Drahden woke with a nasty hangover. He stayed up long after Rebecca left, nursing his brandy and thinking. She put in front of him a problem that was difficult to solve. On one hand he was eager to see this elf-woman, but on the other hand if she did know of the portal, Rebecca would be anxious to get there. Several options turned over and over in his head but he wasn't thrilled with any of them. When at last he settled on a compromise, he was exhausted and fell asleep in his chair by the dwindling fire.
It was late morning by the time he went downstairs to get a bite to eat. The serving woman told him that the Rebecca and Chadra had gone out to get some supplies. He nodded and ate in silence and prepared himself for the ride they needed to start.
He was just pushing back from the table when the women returned carrying their purchases. Drahden had given Chadra some gold so they could obtain food and warm clothing. He stood up and faced them.
"I would see you ladies upstairs in my room," he said formally.
He saw the nervous look on Rebecca's face before climbing the stairs and he took a deep breath. He was risking a lot.
Within moments, the women were in his room and he stared at both of them.
"Chadra, I am grateful for your help with Rebecca these past days. There is no doubt she would have not been able to get through the difficult recovery without you. Although she still has a long way to go, she will be fine in my care."
Chadra raised her soft brown eyes to him and they were watery. He knew the woman had feelings for him and he sighed.
"But my lord..."
"Surely you have a home, Chadra."
"I do, but..."
"Then take the horse and leave at once. I will give you some coin so that you can stay at inns. Where is your home?"
She told him of a town west of where they were. It was about three days ride.
"We will be going in a different direction," he said, glancing at Rebecca. "Again I thank you for your service."
Chadra nodded and Drahden could see the tears on her cheeks. They had become a close knit group drawn together by difficult circumstances and it was hard to let go. Rebecca went over to Chadra and hugged her hard. She whispered words of comfort then let Chadra go and gather her things and retrieve her horse to be on her way.
Drahden watched Chadra go and once he heard her descend the stairs he motioned for Rebecca to sit down. His head throbbed dully with the hangover and he took a deep breath to clear it.
"We will go the elf village," he said.
Rebecca jumped out of her chair. "Oh Drahden! Thank you!"
He held up one hand. "There are some conditions, however."
Rebecca's face dropped slightly and she frowned. "It always has to be your way, doesn't it?"
"Rebecca, what we are dealing with is potentially dangerous. I need to find out what I can before we do anything. I will talk with this elf woman alone."
Rebecca let out a long sigh. "Very well, Drahden. Can we at least get going?"
"Yes, get your things. I will meet you at the stable."
Drahden watched her go and began the mental preparations for the ride.
The ride to the elf settlement was uneventful. Rebecca withdrew inside herself and he was not in the mood to talk. The events of the last few weeks had unsettled him and he much to think about. He also had suspicions about this elf woman and her husband that he dare not explore -- at least not yet.
They arrived at the settlement at dusk. A light snow was falling and he was anxious to get off the road and sit next to a fire. As it was a small settlement, there were no inns. He wasn't worried as his time with the elves proved them to be an accommodating race. They made some inquiries and were soon directed to a cottage at the end of a long lane. Drahden rode up and hobbled Brego before knocking on the cottage door. He could tell Rebecca was tense -- they both were.
The door opened and a beautiful elf woman regarded them with a kind expression.
Drahden spoke: "Greetings. Are you Caladhiel?" The woman looked at both of them before answering.
"Yes, I am Caladhiel. And who might you be?" She was smiling, but her eyes were wary.
"I am Drahden and this is my companion Rebecca. We are from Arandor." Drahden peered inside and saw the hearth burning brightly. "We have travelled many days and wish to speak with you urgently. We mean no harm."
"Please come in then. You look cold and tired," she answered and opened the door to reveal a cozy cottage.
Drahden nodded his thanks and they entered the woman's cottage and took a seat near the fire.
"Now what brings you to our settlement so far from Arandor?" Caladhiel asked.
Drahden had decided that Rebecca could tell her about Jack, but he was to do the talking about the portal -- without Rebecca.
"I have news of your son, Jack," Rebecca began in a timid voice. "I am afraid he has been slain by a party of drow."
Caladhiel's eyes widened then she lowered her head solemnly. Drahden knew from experience that elves were very stoic when it came to such matters.
"I was afraid of this news," she said at last. "I felt something when he passed. Was it some days ago?"
"Aye," Drahden said. "It was. You felt him leave this realm?"
She nodded and wiped a tear from her cheek. "How did it happen?"
"We were actually on the way to visit you, my lady," Rebecca said. "We had something to, er, discuss with you. On the road we met a party of drow and they confronted us." Rebecca paused before going on. Drahden knew how difficult it was for her. "Jack fought valiantly to save me, but the drow killed him and captured me. I was held in the drow king's castle as a pleasure slave..."
Her voice trailed away.
"You poor dear," Caladhiel said. "I have heard stories. How ever did you escape?"
"I picked up their trail and was able to rescue her," Drahden said. "However when I came upon the battle scene, Jack was slain and beyond my help. I am very sorry, Caladhiel, to have to tell you this news."
"Thank you both for telling me this and for coming all this way." She looked at Drahden. "I suspect there is more to your story?"
"Aye, but I would speak to you alone about this."
Caladhiel glanced at Rebecca. "Of course, but let me offer you refreshment and a chance to freshen up from your ride."
Drahden let out a sigh of relief as he was famished and just starting to warm. Caladhiel prepared a modest meal for them and steered the conversation away from matters at hand and spoke about the settlement and her life there. She did not mention her husband at all.
When at last they were full and comfortable, Caladhiel led Rebecca to a room in the back of the cottage where she could start a fire and get into a warm bed. When she returned, Drahden was ready to begin.
"My lady, this is of a delicate nature, what I have to say."
"I understand, Drahden. I think I know of what you wish to say."
He nodded. "Rebecca and Jack became friends in Wrexridge this winter. During their time together, Jack took Rebecca to his cottage in the forest north of the city. He showed her some artifacts that his father gave him when he was young. Artifacts from another world."
He leveled his penetrating stare at Caladhiel and she met him with green eyes.
"Caladhiel...who is Jack's father?"
She let out a long sigh. "I hoped it would never come to this. I see by your black clothes you are one of the Protectors of the Realm, are you not?"
"Then you know Jack's father. He is your Lord."
Although Drahden's suspicions had come true, it still felt like a knife had pierced his heart.
"Rothan," was all he said.
"According to Rebecca, the book Jack showed her was dated the year that Jack was born, but Rothan had been in the Realm a few years already. Is that true?"
"Yes, it is true."
"Then he crossed over to the other world and came back. Did you know of this?"
Caladhiel met Drahden's gaze with her own steady one. "I know of this world as I went there myself."
That was something Drahden was NOT expecting. He stood up in alarm.
"You went with him??" he said, trying to keep his voice down.
"Shhh, Drahden, she'll hear you. Please, sit down and I will tell you."
Drahden returned to his chair, but his world had been set upon its side. He was stunned.
"Rothan and I were married in the elvish tradition a year after he entered this realm. He was a Protector by then, so our marriage had to be secret. We were living in Arandor, but in a remote area. By and by I became pregnant with Jack. As my time neared, our midwife said that the baby was not in the correct position and she feared it would be a dangerous birth. Some even said that it was because I had wed a human."
She sighed and took a sip of her tea.
"Rothan brooded over this situation for some days. Then one night he had me dress warmly and we made a journey deep into the woods not far from our home. He told me that he was from another world. A world in which there were people who could help me deliver our baby safely. I was scared and excited at the same time. I wanted to have this baby and be able to survive the ordeal. I was very much in love with Rothan and was willing to do whatever he asked.
"So we entered a dense copse of trees and I got the strangest feeling. I can only describe it as if my insides were turned out of my body. It lasted only seconds and when we emerged, we were standing in landscape I had never seen before. He said it was Norway -- his home."
Drahden poured another cup of brandy that he had mercifully packed with him as Caladhiel collected her thoughts.
"It was a difficult trek through this wilderness but at last we come to a road. We followed the road to a house. The house was nothing like I had ever seen. Inside were lights with no flames and heat with no fire and all sorts of magical objects. Rothan talked to the people and they took us away in a magical transport to someone who Rothan said could help us.
"The man was what Rothan called a doctor but a special doctor that helped women deliver babies. The man wanted to bring me to what they referred to as a hospital, but Rothan was adamant that I was not brought there. So we rested there and when the time came a few days later, the doctor gave me some special potions and was able to deliver Jack with no trouble at all.
"We stayed there a week then returned to the wilderness. I had Jack safely bundled along with a few things that Rothan wanted to bring back with him. One of those things was the book that Jack showed Rebecca. We returned to our world easily enough, but Rothan forbade me from ever telling anyone this story. He said it would endanger our entire world. I was fearful of that and never told anyone. I am disheartened that Jack told Rebecca this. I never wanted Rothan to tell Jack, but he felt it was important to let his son know that."
Caladhiel look at Drahden. "You and Rebecca are from that world, are you not?"
"Yes. We are from that world. I have been here some years and Rebecca came here only months ago. She wants to return to it. When Jack told her, they were coming here to get more information from you."
Silence hung between them for long minutes. The fire was dying down and Drahden stoked it up again and added another log. The effects of the brandy were washing over him and he felt very tired, but he needed to know a few more things.
"Caladhiel, the portal you used to enter my world. Do you remember where it is?"
"Yes. I will never forget. It is in the forest north of a place called Stonegate. Are you familiar with that?"
Drahden felt another knife go into him as he nodded. Of all the places...
"Yes, I am familiar with that place," he said in a pained voice.
"Rothan and I lived near Stonegate until a few years after Jack was born, then we moved here."
"And when was the last time you saw Rothan?"
"Not for many years now. We decided to live apart permanently, as he had other duties..." she said this with a touch of sadness to her voice.
"What you have told me is immense. It is expressly forbidden to return to our old world. And Rothan brought you there! That is unprecedented."
"Yes, I guessed as much. What I remember of your world was that there was much magic and people did not seem to notice or mind. It was very strange indeed."
Drahden drained his glass. He was suddenly very wary.
"Drahden...what will happen now?"
He sighed and closed his eyes. "I must find Rothan and speak with him. This is a serious breach of our Oath."
"And Rebecca? Will she return?"
"No, I will do everything to make sure she does not. We must keep this conversation a secret."